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USDA Approves Hemp Plans For Massachusetts And Five Indian Tribes

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Thursday that it approved one additional state hemp regulatory plan, as well as five more tribal proposals.

Massachusetts is the latest state to have its plan federally accepted, raising the number of state approvals so far to 17.

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Pala Band of Mission Indians also had their plans newly accepted.

USDA has been signing off on hemp plans on a rolling basis since the crop and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. Last month, Florida and Kansas joined the list of states where proposed regulations for hemp were approved.

“Since the Massachusetts Hemp Program’s inception in 2018, it has licensed over 100 entities and produced 250 acres of certified industrial hemp,” Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources spokesperson Katie Gronendyke told Marijuana Moment.

She added that the state is “pleased that its plan has been accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which further solidifies hemp as a component of Massachusetts agriculture, and the department looks forward to the continuing development of this new sector.”

USDA said in a new notice that it “continues to receive and review hemp production plans from states and Indian tribes.”

While the agency released an interim final rule for a domestic hemp production program last year, industry stakeholders and lawmakers have expressed concerns about certain policies it views as excessively restrictive.

USDA announced in February that it will temporarily lift two provisions that the industry viewed as problematic. Those policies primarily concern testing and disposal requirements. The department declined to revise the THC limit, however, arguing that it’s a statutory matter that can’t be dealt with administratively.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said on several occasions that the Drug Enforcement Administration influenced certain rules, adding that the narcotics agency wasn’t pleased with the overall legalization of hemp.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still in the process of developing regulations for CBD. It sent an update on its progress to Congress in March, explaining that the agency is actively exploring pathways to allow for the marketing of the cannabis compound as a dietary supplement and is developing enforcement discretion guidance.

An FDA public comment period was reopened indefinitely for individuals to submit feedback on CBD regulations.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, hemp industry associations pushed for farmers who cultivate the crop to be able to access to certain COVID-19 relief loans—a request that Congress granted in the most recent round of coronavirus legislation.

Hemp farmers approved to produce the crop also stand to benefit from federal loan programs. The department recently released guidelines for processing loans for the industry.

“While it’s understood that this new commodity will likely produce some servicing challenges because of State and Federal regulations, it should be treated as closely as possible to any other agricultural commodity and serviced in the same manner,” the memo said.

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This story has been updated to include comment from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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